Sad to say but I seem to be seeing and reading about these obituaries of figures in the Japanese music industry all too often these days. This morning, NHK reported the death of songwriter and actor Asei Kobayashi at the age of 88 after he had suffered heart failure on May 30th. I had just written another article regarding one of his creations a little more than a month ago.
My knowledge about Japanese lyricists, composers and arrangers has grown only because of my work on the blog, so before 2012, the name Asei Kobayashi was one that I was barely aware of. In terms of the visual medium of television, however, I've known about Kobayashi for years on sight alone since as a thespian, he became famous for his very first role as Kantaro Terauchi, the stonemason with the volcanic temper from the mid-1970s TBS drama "Terauchi Kantaro Ikka"（寺内貫太郎一家...Kantaro Terauchi's Family）. Looking like the most terrifying and willful Showa Era father, his most famous scene involved him literally tearing up his own living room and painting the walls with his family (albeit in a comical fashion), including young heartthrob singer Hideki Saijo（西城秀樹）. I don't know whether Kobayashi had ever created a song that was recorded by Saijo.
Interestingly enough, from reading an article on this website, I found out that "Terauchi Kantaro Ikka" was famous for tackling some of the social issues of the day, and considering Terauchi's personality, I immediately wondered whether this program was the Japanese equivalent of America's "All in the Family" which was becoming a controversial hit on CBS at the same time.
However, I was to gradually discover that Kobayashi's true forte was as a composer. He was born in August 1932 in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, and he was named after a playwright that his mother, a member of a drama troupe, had greatly admired. His father was a government official, and it had been his hope that young Asei would become a physician and so the lad attended Keio University. But much to his parents' dismay, he jumped ship so to speak to become a composer under the tutelage of Tadashi Hattori（服部正）.
I was also surprised to find out that the actor behind the fiery Kantaro was the same fellow who created the beloved themes for the following anime among other shows:
Gatchaman (ガッチャマン）(1972) by Masato Shimon
Mahotsukai Sally （魔法使いサリー）(1966) by The Three Graces
Then, Kobayashi composed the song that would be another huge critical and popular hit for enka singer Harumi Miyako（都はるみ）in 1975.
Harumi Miyako -- Kita no Yado Kara （北の宿から）
He also came up with a popular folk song.
Yuuki Hide, Kotaro Asa and Singers Three -- Hitachi no Ki（日立の樹）(1973)
Kobayashi also composed a lot of commercial songs for various products, and in fact, in the same way he made quite the splash as a first-time thespian in "Terauchi Kantaro Ikka" in the 1970s, he became famous for one of his earliest creations (words and music) for a television ad, "Wansaka Musume"（ワンサカ娘...The Wansaka Girl） for the Renown company which specialized in textiles and clothing.
Originally recorded by Hiroshi Kamayatsu（かまやつひろし）in 1961, "Wansaka Musume" was taken up as the song for Renown and this time it was Mieko Hirota's（弘田三枝子）turn behind the mike in 1964.
Then in 1965, singer and actress Sylvie Vartan performed her own yé-yé cover of "Wansaka Musume". I tried looking it up but I couldn't find out what the wansaka meant. Maybe it's just onomatopoeia but hopefully one of you veteran readers can let me know. Anyways since then, "Wansaka Musume" has been given further covers by acts including Duke Aces（デューク・エイセス）and Ann Lewis（アン・ルイス）.
Kobayashi also had his regular appearances on game shows and his own commercials. He had quite the voice, and I'm not talking about his yelling one from "Terauchi Kantaro Ikka".
My condolences to Kobayashi's family and friends.